Herbal oils are fantastically useful and practical to have on hand. I’ve used them as an emollient for the bath, as a body moisturizer, for all dry or irritated skin, on the hair and scalp, fingernails, for massage, as a base for creams and salves, face moisturizer, as cleansing agents…hmm, any other ideas?? The gist is, as a great natural skin care aid!
Herbal oils are also called infused oils, or herbal-infused oils. They are a mixture of herbs with a natural skin care oil, in this case a “carrier oil”.
Which Oils and Herbs to Use
The most commonly used carrier oil is extra virgin olive oil, though they can also be made with coconut oil, jojoba oil, sweet almond oil, apricot kernel oil, grapeseed oil and most other plant oils, or even lard or ghee.
The herbs chosen for the process will depend on what purpose the oil will be used.
Some common herbs used in this preparation include calendula flowers, comfrey root and leaf, plantain leaf, elder flowers and lavender flowers. I’ve made oils with many other herbs, like rose petals, dandelion flowers, marshmallow root, dong quai, and poke root.
Though I prefer to make them with dry or freshly dried herbs, some herbalists use fresh herbs for their blends. I’ve had a few batches of freshly-made herbal oils develop mold and though it can be removed, I’d rather not be worried about re-growth.
How to Freshly Dry Herbs for Your Oils
Harvest the herbs, lay out somewhere with good air circulation and leave for 12 to 24 hours. That’s it! When the herb appears and feels like it is losing its water content, it is ready to use. It will be somewhat withered but not yet crunchy.
There are several ways to make herbal oils as well. It is always good practice to label creations with the herb used, oil used, quantity of each, method used and date.
Creating an herbal oil is a magical process.
Way 1: Cold Infusion
- Fill jar ¾ full with dry herb
- Cover with carrier oil of choice
- Allow to steep in a cool, dark place for 4 weeks
- Strain and squeeze herb (at this point called the marc) to get every last drop. You may run the herb and oil through some layers of cheesecloth or an old cut up t-shirt which makes it easier to squeeze.
Way 2: Stove-top Method
- Set up a double boiler and turn stove on. Allow the water in the double boiler to get to a simmer. Alternatively you can turn the stove on after step #4
- Fill Pyrex jar with herb
- Cover with carrier oil of choice, fill to just above the top of the herbs
- Place the jar in the water
- Using a chopstick, continually check the temperature of the oil and agitate the herbs. You want the oil to be hot, but not burning. If it is burning your skin, turn the heat down and/or remove the herb/oil infusion until it gets right below that warm/hot spot.
- Allow the mix to warm for an hour minimum and as long as 4 hours.
- Strain, allow to cool, and press out the oil.
Way 3: Sun Infusion
- Follow the procedure for Cold Infusion above but…
- Rather than storing in a cool, dark place, set out in a sunny area or windowsill
- Leave for up to 4 weeks
- Strain as above
Way 4: Yogurt Maker or other low, slow heat Method
- Fill jar to ¾ full
- Put in a yogurt maker and cover
- Allow to infuse for 24 to 48 hours
- Strain as above
A note on this method: the yogurt maker maintains a constant temperature of about 90 degrees F, so any other low, slow heat methods need to be around that temperature.
I’ve had a lot of folks ask about using a Crock Pot to make herbal-infused oils, and unfortunately, the lowest setting on these is about 150 degrees F, which is TOO HOT for this. The high heat will degrade both the herbs and the oils. That being said, you can greatly nurse the Crock Pot for a fresh and juicy herb, check out the article Crock Pot Ginger Oil written herbalist Ananda Wilson about how to do that.
Which method do I prefer?
It really depends on time availability. I find myself using the cold and stove top methods most often, followed by the yogurt maker. I’ve made just a few sun infused oils, particularly with fresh herbs and they’ve turned out well.
Crafting Herbal Oils for Specific Uses
Looking to make an oil for a specific use like acne or psoriasis?
Maybe you’d like to create an erotic massage oil or something for sore muscles?
As herbal oils can be made with any herb, I encourage you to browse the ‘herbal skin care’ section of this site to learn all about how to make a healing oil for your particular needs.
The second part of crafting an herbal oil is selecting the carrier oil, potent in the final product as well. For that please check out articles within the ‘natural skin care oils’ section.